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Visual Studio won't ditch Crystal Reports: Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. joined business intelligence (BI) software maker Business Objects last week to reassure developers that popular reporting software from the recently acquired Crystal Decisions will continue to ship in both the current version of Visual Studio .NET and the next release, code-named ''Whidbey.'' Users of Crystal Reports have expressed concerns about the relationship since the tool's acquisition by Business Objects last year.

''Crystal Reports has been a part of our product offering for more than 10 years,'' said David Lazar, Microsoft's director of product management for developer tools. ''We are committed to Crystal Reports for the current release of Visual Studio, as well as the next release.''

San Jose, Calif.-based Business Objects revealed its intention to acquire Crystal Reports maker Crystal Decisions last summer in an effort to maintain a top spot among a dwindling pack of BI suppliers. Together, the two companies claim more than 24,000 customers. Business Objects completed the acquisition of Crystal Decisions in December. Prior to the acquisition, the Crystal Decisions toolset was embedded in products from companies like IBM, SAP and Microsoft under OEM agreements.

Microsoft currently ships Visual Studio .NET with an edition of Crystal Reports designed to enable developers to create interactive reports without leaving the IDE. The resulting reports can be shared over the Internet, making it possible for enterprise customers and business partners to host reports inside their own applications.

Last week, Business Objects began shipping Crystal Version 10, a new release of the Crystal Decisions reporting software. The new version offers links to Microsoft Office applications and a new Java report engine.

At the time of the announcement, Business Objects said that its goal is to offer a combined product suite made up of its ad hoc query, analysis and performance-management software and Crystal Decisions' enterprise reporting applications. But integrating the two product lines presented a challenge: keeping existing customers happy and paying maintenance fees while trying to move forward with new designs and architecture.

The company said last week that it plans to integrate the two product lines in stages over the next two years. The first stage, scheduled for completion in the second quarter of this year, involves a ''product integration pack'' that incorporates portal integration, common Web services APIs, and an option to use Businesses Objects meta data as a source for Crystal Reports.

The second stage involves ''significant platform-level integration,'' supporting core products from both companies running on a common infrastructure with common administration. The third stage delivers complete integration of the two product lines via a 'superset of all current product functionality on an enhanced, integrated platform.' Business Objects expects to complete the process by 2005.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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